Cecily Crebbs is a DJ, mother and Tucson resident of 25 years, but most of all, she is a writer. Back in 2002, Crebbs ditched her managerial desk job and devoted herself to writing a biography on Morphine's frontman, Mark Sandman. Twelve years later, she's still working on the biography, but she's also started Story Land, a space where members can drink complimentary coffee and tea while they compose their life's work in dead silence. For more info, go to www.storylandtucson.com.
So you're writing a biography about Mark Sandman. Is that what inspired you to open a writer's space like Story Land, to have a place to just focus?
Yeah. I'm kind of my own biggest client. You know, I was a full-time mom. My daughter's 21 and my son's 17 and just getting used to being a mom at home and being constantly interrupted, I just kind of lost my writing momentum. You know, if you're trying to finish something full-time, and you're home in the evening and you're home in the day, and you're alone all the time—personally that doesn't work for me, and I don't think it works for a lot of people.
Had you ever been to other writing rooms?
I went to one called the Writer's Junction and I didn't like it. It looked great on the website, but they had leased a building that had all these weird rooms, and they just left it the way it was ... the vibe was off, it was missing a certain feel. And the one I like was called The Office Online, and that was founded by a screenwriter. It was just interesting because you could see—they'd walk up to the door and be like, "Ah, I'm here," you know. It was dead quiet inside. And they were all just really focused.
So writing rooms sound very similar to libraries. What makes Story Land different?
There's a spirit when you're working with other people and they're working—it keeps you working. You're all in the room, and everyone's working and has a deadline. You walk in and, first of all, you're paying for [a membership], so there's a level of commitment. Everybody sees you walk in, and you're not just gonna walk out. It's like getting yourself to the gym.
The amazing thing about this place is the location. I was looking for something close to the UA for the MFA program students, and then there are [writers] living downtown, which is just a mess right now. There's the (Fourth Avenue) Street Fair and all these other variables, but this noise is pretty controllable. It's just quiet and nice, and the space is really creative. I couldn't have built something myself more perfect.
Aside from MFA students, who would benefit from Story Land's services?
I'm looking for people who are professional writers who are leaving their house to go to a cafe (and work). For the price of a cup of coffee everyday, like $90 a month—and you can store your lunch and have security—those are the people I'm looking for.
How are members liking Story Land?
They do. I was hoping to start getting members in December, but nobody thinks about doing their hobbies during the holidays, so I started getting members in January. I have nine at this point and I would love to have about 50. And I have an IndieGoGo campaign (on the website), but it ends Feb. 3. It's a ganga deal—it's $70 a month [for a membership], and you get 24-hour access. You can take it for a test drive. They love it here—it's comfortable, it's a great place to be, and they say they're getting a lot done here.
It must have been a task to get this place started.
You know what? I didn't have to reinvent it. If you go online, and look at the spaces in Chicago, in Boston, in New York—the writing rooms all have the same features. They all have a kitchen area, a break room, some lockers. And I've managed some places before—I have a background in accounting and finance, and I managed ZUZI! Dance Company for a year. This is easy.
Do you ever worry if Story Land is actually sustainable?
I need to get more members in, obviously, and there's a ton of events I want to go to (to promote it) ... You know, the writing room in Chicago I looked at—it was started by an English professor and four students originally and eventually they had over a 2,000 people a year go through it. So if you think about it, there's so many writers, and not just (UA) and Pima students. I've known a lot of writers over the years, and they've all been looking for a place like this. It's tricky because I want to price it right. You know, I priced it a certain way but I'm thinking about lowering the price—I want to be inclusive.
There's a lot of writers here—lots of famous writers people don't realize are here. I really hope people will come check it out, and if people need a price break or anything, I'm willing to negotiate. It's a 20 percent discount for seniors and students.
Any other plans on Story Land's horizon?
The idea eventually is to have a supportive writing community. (I'd like) to start having workshops—I already have one that meets on Wednesday nights—and readings, but that wouldn't happen here physically. You know, in New York, the (writing rooms) will have a monthly reading and they'll do it at a bar.
You're also a DJ for KXCI.
Yeah. As soon as I decided to commit to writing the [Mark Sandman] biography, I called up KXCI and the guy asked, "Are you calling about the DJ class?" And I said, "I guess I am." So I took the DJ class right then, and I got a slot like two weeks later and I DJ'd for 12 years until I was like, "Ah, I'm done." I still DJ, but it's more fun for me not to have to do it—to have somebody just be like, "Oh, I'm sick, I have a cold, I need a sub," is better. I was on the board of directors at KXCI for four years, but I cut myself loose about two years ago.
Are you planning any other books?
I'm planning like four noir—you know, mystery—novels. I like murder mysteries and it's funny because it all kind of ties back to Mark Sandman, you know. He called his music "beat noir."
Why'd you choose to write a novel on Mark Sandman?
Instead of a guitar, Mark Sandman had a guy play a baritone saxophone. And he had a baritone voice. He played the drums—a simple cocktail set of drums—so it doesn't sound like anything else. You know how Jimmie Hendrix didn't sound like anybody else ... And if you listen to a Morphine song, you never miss a word Mark Sandman's saying. It's really interesting, and he was a fascinating man. From beginning to end, (he) has a great story.